Sunday, August 7, 2011

Keys to Achieving Professional Balance

I recently reflected on what it was that helped me to remain in the teaching profession through the five-year mark. A sound piece of wisdom to 'be present in all that you do' helped me to identify five main areas of my life that needed equal attention. The five pillars of balance, for me were: health, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual. Having an equitable dedication to developing and honing each of these aspects of my life helped me to be a balanced person and successful professional.

New teachers and pre-service teachers can benefit from developing personal balance early on in their careers. I wish I knew earlier what I know now about balance. This has led me to try and enumerate the ways in which I have found success in achieving and maintaining balance. I offer the following ideas for consideration to my fellow educators, especially those in the field for less than five years, as a way to guide you to the balanced present life.

Five Pillars of Life Balance

In the education profession, your main focus should be students; however, you must take care of yourself before all else. If you are out of balance in your life, your teaching will be out of balance. If any one of these five pillars is out of synchronicity with the others, you will feel out of balance in your career and life.

Consider the following points in each area of life:
·            HEALTH
o   Eat more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day
o   Drink plenty of water and limit the caffeine
o   Watch your sugar intake (both sweets and processed carbohydrates)
o   Bring your own food to work to control how and when you eat
o   Get plenty of sleep (4 hours is not plenty)
o   Keep your recreation in check - don't go heavy on pub catharsis; do go heavy on fitness
o   Manage stress by tracking your moods vs. your foods
o   Plan meals (and pack your lunch) ahead of time - the night before
·            INTELLECT
o   Don't forget the education and training that you've received; and, don't let it stop there
o   Join professional networks and associations in your discipline
o   Read for fun and to learn more about what's current in your discipline
o   Engage in scholarly work, meaningful projects, and share ideas with others
·            SOCIAL
o   Maximize positive relationships and minimize the toxic ones
o   Keep in touch with old friends and strive to make new ones
o   Associate with people in and outside of your career field
o   Attend events in your community and at your school
o   Make time for socializing, e.g., date night, Saturdays at Jeff's to watch the game, etc.
·            EMOTIONAL
o   Don't let anyone stomp on your heart, especially your students
o   Keep empathy close and apathy far away
o   Notice your own thought patterns
o   Beware the "psychic vampires" of teaching, and carry plenty of 'garlic'
o   Keep your work and personal life matters separate as much as possible
·            SPIRITUAL
o   Find what works for you and actively keep this up in your life - it fuels emotional health
o   No matter what you believe, keep in mind that we all exist and essentially are the same

Though I cannot tell anyone how to live their life, I do get asked frequently what my "secret" is to the success I have seen. For me, it is not a secret. The glory all goes to God, who put me in the right situations to learn all that I know, but what I have learned is what I offer here for your equal success. Achieving balance in your professional career as a teacher and, more importantly, in your life is the foremost obligation you have to yourself and others. Hopefully, these quips of wisdom will mean something to you in some way.


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